Prior to the start of the playoffs this NY Giants blog mentioned the significance of Antrel Rolle and his emergence in the leadership role. He “lit a fire” under his teammates that played a part in their turnaround.
We can look back to 2008 to a team that lacked a strong VOICE of leadership. A void was left by the retirement of Strahan. It was evident that in their late season struggles that their was not a strong voice in the locker room. Guys like Tuck and Manning tried to lead by their play, but were uncomfortable as vocal leaders.
In 2009, it took an embarrassing defensive performance versus the Eagles at home for Strahan to speak up in the media about their void. At the time Strahan stated that the Giants needed someone "to get in guys' faces and push them.” Of course “that's not an easy job” as “It's easy to just sit back and watch and say nothing.” While he added, “no one is taking charge, they're still searching for someone to do that” and “the Giants defenders are too nice, too complacent and too comfortable.” That was 2009. In 2010 the make up of the team was not entirely different but the addition of Antrel Rolle was a start.
Recently, Tuck opened up about the frustrations of his injuries and how it mentally affected his approach. It took Coughlin and several players to get through to him. He sums up their message by stating, “I just came to the realization that I'm not going to be healthy this year, I'm not going to put up the stats that I've put up. But that doesn’t mean that I can't help this football team win games. At the end of the day, that's the end goal. That's what I mean about blocking all the other stuff out." In addition, he came to realize he was not going to just “lead by example.” His “epiphany” was realized when he added that he was "learning how to still get your point across without doing it on the football field, which I previously liked to do.” This was confirmed by his teammates:
"But the one thing that I learned this year is the guys respect what you've done. A lot of times I wouldn't say anything and guys came up to me and said, 'Why are you so quiet' or 'Why do you do this or do that.' They were like, 'You know what? You don't have to worry about that. We know you’re not 100 percent, we know that doesn't stop you from being a leader.'
"I guess I got that OK from other players to still be the vocal leader and still be showing leadership even though I wasn't doing it on the football field at times."
This is a big step in maturity for Tuck. By nature he is a quite and humble individual. Sometimes you are forced into the role of leadership and Tuck appears to have finally grasped that leading by example was not the whole answer.
Andy posted earlier this morning about the possibility of a letdown based on the statistics of teams eliminating the defending champs. The onus is on Coughlin to get these guys prepared and prepared to play 60 minutes. But he would be wise to put the onus on guys like Tuck, and the veterans who played in SB XLII, to take a VOCAL leadership role in ensuring they are prepared to play 60.